The Intelligent Guerilla Beehive is a speculative research project that combines in a radical way smart materials, biomimetic forms and biotechnology. It is inspired by the intelligence, complexity and self-organisation of bee colonies as Super Organisms. This bio-art installation meanders on the edge of art and science evoking issues of sustainability and biodiversity.
Bees are bio-indicators. They reflect the health of their surrounding ecosystem as well as the cumulative effects of different pollutants. To tacle the disappearance of the honeybees, Maes developped a radically new beehive: The Intelligent Guerilla Beehive. This mobile shelter for swarming honeybees is a double sensing device. It is mirroring the health status of the environment and that of the bees living inside the hive. Colonies of color-changing bacteria, living on the skin of the hive, send out warnings at high environmental pollution. The inner skin is host for colonies of symbiotic bacteria that support the healthy bee microbiome.
The research and development of the device have been a starting point for exploring possible futures through artistic experiments on materials science and biotechnology. The ‘Sensorial Skins’ -smart fabrics grown by micro-organisms- are augmented with biological and electronic elements for sensing and actuating, for computation and for communication. This radically new device tackles a domain where human and non-human actors collaborate to maintain the resilience of an ecosystem in decline.
In her Laboratory for Form and Matter, AnneMarie Maes works on long term speculative research projects. Her laboratory is an open environment for experimentation, a space for contradiction, criticism and evaluation. In the Intelligent Guerilla Beehive project, she combines organic components with living systems and bacteria to create artifacts for the future. She makes micro-organisms grow organic biofabrics and she researches how these fabrics can be enhanced and made useful through embedded electronics and living technology. Navigating between blueprints and ‘Proof of Concept’, her projects and objects can be classified as ‘Future Archaeology’: fragments of a Forgotten World as well as fragments of a World To Come.
AnneMarie Maes is an artist and a researcher. Her art meanders on the edge of biology, ecology and technology. Her research practice combines art and science with a strong interest for DIY technologies. She works with a range of biological, digital and traditional media, including live organisms.
Her artistic research is materialized in techno-organic objects that are inspired by factual/fictional stories; in artifacts that are a combination of digital fabrication and craftsmanship; in installations that reflect both the problem and the (possible) solution, in multispecies collaborations, in polymorphic forms and models created by eco-data. In her Laboratory for Form and Matter she studies the processes by which Nature creates form. She observes and analyzes these processes, isolates them or causes them to appear in artificial conditions. She creates art works from this artistic research in many different media: installations and sculptures, video, audio, photographs and objects. These art works are intriguing because they raise questions about the sustainability of our current life style and fabrication processes.
AnneMarie Maes is representative of a new wave of artists for which art is life and life is ecological, artists that, paradoxically, exploit the extraordinary possibilities of the most advanced information and communication technologies, even synthetic biology, in order to connect us back to nature. Her work is structured through long term projects, and her research is often carried out in collaboration with scientists.
Maes, an accomplished beekeeper and herbalist, designed and fabricated various experimental observation beehives, including the Transparent Beehive (2011-2013), the Sound Beehive (2014-2015) and the Intelligent Guerilla Beehive (2015-ongoing). She also started to experiment intensely with new organic materials created through growth processes involving bacteria and yeast.
A steady stream of artworks has come from these experimental hives and bee colonies. They all add up to a ‘Wunderkammer’. Each object or image has an intriguing story to tell. It makes us see Nature in a new light. Maes’ is carefully observing Nature using her artistic eye to highlight the remarkable forms and structures found there and performing experiments – mostly without complex scientific equipment – that bring out the beauty and sophistication of the natural world.
Research for the Intelligent Guerilla Beehive project has recently opened a new chapter in her work. Combining 3d-printing and computer-programmed fabrication with traditional craftmanship and biotechnology, Maes discovered a new medium for painting and sculpting. She has no absolute control over the outcome but puts biological processes in motion that create intriguing sensorial surfaces. The result has the esthetic qualities of abstract art works but invokes at the same time the spirit of Arte Povera by its appropriation of unconventional materials, its emphasis on process, its use of additional senses like smell and tactile sensing, and its attempt to move away from the overly rational, mechanistic attitudes that dominate our world.